Sniff! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and prog 1911 sees the end of the modern classic, Stickleback. The mysterious pope of crime first appeared in 2000AD in February 2007, and over the last seven and a half years has kept us guessing as to who, or what, he really is. Killing him at Christmas too, thanks a lot Tharg, you green git!
Baring a bloody scrap with Santa, visionary artist D'Israeli has been the sole artist on the strip. Bringing a grimy, texture-filled Victorian London to life, brimming with all manner of fantastic locations and colourful, monocromatic characters! The strip will be a big miss, but I have a feeling we are simply entering a new phase of the character's life...
Over to D'Israeli to tell us how Stickleback's swan song came to life, or should that be death?
Tharg's brief was “I was thinking of another Stickleback cover for the last episode - maybe an image of SB's harness lying discarded on the floor?” So I fired up Manga Studio EX5 and got to work!"
"I usually try to provide two variants of a cover brief plus a “wild card,” but in this case, the image was so strong, and fit the story so well, I just did two small variations on the brief, one exactly a stated, one with the addition of the empty Stickleback mask. Matt picked my variation with the mask."
The Ugly Bug's fall...
"Then in on a new layer I drew a refined “pencil” drawing to just tighten up the details..."
Margaret Thatcher's true form.
"Next the Pencils & Blocking. Under the pencils I added blocks of colour to act as masks for the later painting and texturing. The grid of tiles was a late decision, constructed using Manga Studio’s excellent perspective rulers. It’s a bit wonky at the top, but I wanted that part to fade to black anyway, so I didn’t waste time fixing it."
"Blocking and Shadow - I don’t usually add any sort of shading at the blocking stage, but in the case of the tiling, adding a transparent layer of colour over the existing tile pattern simplified later texturing and painting stages. Because I separate out the colour blocking out into layers, I could just add the shading on a new layer between the foreground elements and the background tile pattern. One great advantage of working digitally is the ability to make major decisions like this “on the fly” without risk."
"At this stage I exported the image as a layered Photoshop file."
"In Adobe Photoshop CC I added textures using a combination of the selection tools (to select different areas of the colour blocking) and the paint bucket tool, filling with textures of my own making."
D'Israeli's textures include coffee, stuff from down the back of the couch and egg from Mr Twit's beard.
Then it's back to Manga Studio EX5 for painting. Manga Studio can work with Photoshop files, so I just re-opened the file without further conversion. I use Manga Studio’s Transparent Watercolour brushes to paint in detail and shading. I’ve modified the brush settings so give harder edged, distinctive brush strokes (avoiding the slightly airbrushed look of the default settings). The point is for the end result to look as organic as possible."
"While Manga Studio’s watercolour brushes aren’t quite as good as the ones in Corel Painter (which I used to use for finishing), the overall speed and performance of Manga Studio is so ridiculously superior that I’m confirmed in my decision to abandon Corel Painter."
Yes, over the years on this blog we've seen D'Israeli's very public, somewhat undignified break up with Coral Painter. I for one hope that the end of Stickleback helps the artist draw a line under this obviously painful split and both can get on with their lives.
"At this point I’m finished; the only step left is to re-open the file in Photoshop for export as a flattened TIFF. That’s then sent to 2000AD by FTP."
At the end of the strip we find out our protagonist's true identity, something I called back in 2010, go me!
To honour our fallen antihero, I think it's only right to have a Stickleback Cover Gallery special!
We'll begin with the crooked crooks' debut way back in February 2007...
Stop picking your nose Stickleback!
Prog 1575 featured Stickleback's motley crew - Black Bob, Gay John, Fiery Jack and Little Tonga!
Day of the Tentacle!
Next, possibly my favourite Stickleback cover of all, the awesome Prog 1669...
There's gotta be fish paste in that hamper...
There exists a coloured version of this cover, while's lovely, I'm pleased they kept with the thematic monochrome approach...
Fetch the engine, fetch the engine!
A very important cover next, as Stickleback faces off against the Iron Maiden Irena Bernoulli at the climax of Stickleback Book 3...
Stickleback always had a way with the ladies...
Evil is reborn as the Pope of Crime is reanimated by the Brotherhood of the Book. Ironically, this cover published in the same week that Pope Francis was elected. Truly, Tharg knows all!
Stickleback and his pal Henry...
Always a pioneer, Stickleback attempts to light Henry's burps.
A sorrie state of affairs as Stickleback and Bob get to work...
Ugly scenes on the first ever Black Friday...
The sinister sisters prepare to make mischief on Prog 1903...
The worst ever episode of 'Blind Date.'
And, the end... or should that be 'The Beginning?'
He sure looks dead to me...
I would like to publicly thank Mr D'Israeli for giving so much of his time and putting so much effort into his Stickleback posts for this blog. Over the years he has provided pages and pages of detailed information, given us free brushes and even made instructional videos to share his artistic process. I'm so flattered and it speaks volumes for the man.
So thank you Matt, from myself and everyone who reads this blog.
Stickeback is dead! Long live Stickleback!